Monday, December 09, 2013

Volunteerism: Personal choice you need to make

If you wish to make a New Year’s resolution that will actually be worthwhile, resolve to do something … I mean do SOMETHING meaningful within your community.
My late father used to describe the method used in the Army (when he served during World War II) in procuring volunteers for something or other.
“You lined up everyone in a straight line and when the mission was announced and the request for volunteers, everyone took one step backwards ... well ... almost everyone,” he said. “The guy who didn’t move, the one who was left standing there by himself, became the volunteer.”
My elementary school Spanish teacher employed a phrase (which I will never remember in that tongue) which translated meant “handcuffed volunteer.” It seemed as if I was in shackles often when no one raised their hand to help.
These days, not enough people are raising their hands – to help various worthy organizations, to help the youth, to help build a better community for us to live in. The list of need is long and not enough people are stepping forward to ask the clarion call.
As a society, each of us has an obligation to live together and form a bond of genuine humanity. As many move up the ladder in terms of economic and social standing, others cannot, and, sadly, do not, share in those benefits.
But the chain of our every-shrinking world feels the strain of all people. I need not repeat the adage about a chain and its weakest link. Or do I?
As a product of a different generation, I was taught that one could not live in a community, be part of any group, and not try to make things better for others. The greatest legacy a person can leave is seeing one thing – one area of need – improved by personal involvement.
In other words, you NEED to volunteer … regardless of the need. And if you ask people in various social agencies, or on any school campus, the need grows by the day. It’s like the price of most goods and services; it always goes up, never down.
Volunteerism is a very personal thing; it is actually a commitment between your body and your conscience. Such a discussion is held between your mind and inner voice which directs your heart to do things.
People “give” in their own way – some give time, some give labor, some simply give money. No one form is better, or worse, than the other. A combination of that Holy Trinity – time, labor, money – is greatly needed, especially in these current times when vital social services are starving for any one of those three entities.
I never criticize benefactors who want to stay in the shadows, but feel the need to help through financial contribution. Manpower is a wonderful thing and busy hands can accomplish so much. But groups still have to pay for items most of the time (unless that benefactor contributes goods); all show and no dough leaves many projects unfinished.
Others would be surprised at what they can do. Some gather litter from highways, some can provide tax and legal service to poor families who could use the help the most; some can read and mentor to a child in after-school programs. Food banks are struggling to combat a problem – hunger – which should NEVER exist in the richest country on earth.
The list is endless because the need is endless. Sitting her surrounded by ice and ridiculously frigid (harmful and even fatal) temperatures, there is a segment of our society unable to financially or physically cop – the homeless! I live in one of the more affluent counties (Collin) in Texas (although I never resemble that remark), yet even among people of higher means, there ARE too many adults, and even children, spending nights in cars and without so much as a roof, or a decent meal to project ahead of them.
I have (for years) supported the only homeless shelter in this county (The Samaritan Inn) because it provides a valuable and needed service. The facility, which has expanded its capacity twice in the past decade, is ALWAYS filled to capacity, and is forced to turn away twice as many people as it accepts – the need is THAT great!
I was stunned to learn that in the midst of this recent cold spell only a handful of the hundreds of churches in the county bothered to offer open doors to merely shelter these people from the cold, and offer so little as a cup of coffee, some bread or soup, to them. It simply makes a person wonder about how the teachings of a man who professed compassion for the unfortunate around him could be that misshaped.
There are homeless people everywhere in this nation and not ALL are mentally unbalanced drug addicts; most work full-time jobs and a third of those labeled “homeless” are children under 17 (who have done nothing bad in their lives other to be born to lesser circumstances). Far, FAR too many homeless men (and even women) are U.S. military veterans, for whom society has turned its collective backs on these former heroes and warriors. Such is but one of several national shames this country continues to permit.
The best volunteer helps because it’s the right thing to do. The best volunteer does it without fanfare and without seeking approval of others ... because it IS the right thing to do. And the recipient(s) of volunteer efforts need to deliver regular thanks and appreciation for that which they receive ... in the form of sincere pats on the back.
Because that is ALSO the right thing to do.
Every community, regardless of where you live, offers worthy organizations that could use help with that “trinity.” Each organization could benefit from donations, or a phone call where you ask a simple question, “What can I do to help?”
Find as much to do as your schedule will allow – at your church, at your school, through various outreach services. Take that step forward and raise your hand.
You’ll be a much better human being for it.
To everyone who reads or listens to Mgotalk, please have a safe and rewarding holiday, keep supporting this venture and the University of Michigan athletics (and other activities) and help your fellow man, woman and children.

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